Monday, November 27, 2017

Reign of Christ • Christ the King A

Responsive Psalm 95 was our opening prayer

Psalm 95:1-8a

Refrain: We are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

1O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! Refrain

3For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. Refrain

5The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed. 6O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! Refrain

7For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice! 8Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness... Refrain

Matthew 25:31-46

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'

37Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' 40And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'

41Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'

44Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' 45Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

The church has journeyed through another year of grace; today we conclude with the feast of Christ the King / Reign of Christ / the Sovereignty and Rule of the Crucified and Risen Jesus of Nazareth. I strongly suggested everyone read the commentary from Sundays and Seasons printed on the back of our worship bulletin.

We don't talk much about royalty – kings, queens, etc. Or do we? We know particularly the British royals are well aware of their positions of service to the people. What about others in authority? Government leaders such as presidents, prime ministers, senators, mayors, members of parliament, city or town council— in a democracy, the people elect most of those leaders, so technically their decisions are supposed to respond to the will of the people. Bosses in a workplace? Manager, supervisor, CEO... Church? In most mainline church polities, voting members of the congregation elect the governing board (council, session, consistory, vestry). In episcopal polity that designates the minister of word and sacrament as "rector" or ruler rather than pastor, that person wields a kind of authority the pastor in most Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc. churches doesn't have. However, the resident pastor – whether interim or settled – is responsible for the theology that goes down.

Today is the last Sunday in Revised Common Lectionary Year A that features the gospel we received from the community gathered around Matthew. What are some of Matthew's features?

Matthew begins with Jesus' genealogy, and then emphasizes Jesus as God-with-us, from the time an angel instructs Joseph to name the baby Emmanuel, to the end of the gospel account when Jesus promises to be with us always, and then send us, his followers, out to be his ongoing presence in the world. Although Luke's gospel features the role of women, including Jesus' mother Mary, Matthew tells us quite a lot about Jesus' stepfather Joseph.

Matthew uniquely brings us a visit by the magi from the east, demonstrating Jesus as Savior for all. Only Matthew brings us the flight into Egypt, where Jesus becomes a refugee. Matthew emphasizes Jesus as the new King David and as the new Moses, the new liberator. Pastor Peg reminded us Matthew's Jesus does a lot of teaching and explaining. I mentioned by the time Matthew's community recorded this gospel, the second Jerusalem Temple had been destroyed, but it still was standing during Jesus' earthly life.

Next week we start a new year of grace with the first Sunday of Advent and the gospel according to Mark.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Pentecost 24A

Matthew 25:14-30

14"For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.

19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, "Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' 21His master said to him, "Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'

22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, "Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' 23His master said to him, "Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'

24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, "Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 26But his master replied, "You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

The church has almost cycled through another year of grace! Today is the next to last Sunday for this liturgical year. In the Revised Common Lectionary that provides our scripture readings we're concluding Year A, Matthew's year, that like the others intersperses some readings from the gospel according to John. The RCL is ecumenical, meaning many different church bodies and denominations follow it. Next Sunday we'll celebrate Christ the King / Reign of Christ / the Sovereignty of the Crucified and Risen Jesus of Nazareth. And then it will be Advent.

Today we hear another famous parable, this one's about talents and has received a wide range of interpretations. Originally a talent was a huge amount of money—one source I found said it was about twenty years' wages, but of course that would vary depending the person's job and skill. Using that guideline, five talents would be 100 years' pay! We get the word talent that refers to someone's natural gifts and abilities from the Greek word in this parable.

Jesus does not open with "the kingdom of Heaven / God is like," so this is not a parable of the Kingdom or Reign of God. The account starts out about money and a worker's wages; the master in the story is not God or Jesus. The way the money economy still goes down, if money is making money, someone is being exploited, so Torah and Jewish culture forbade charging interest on a loan. Not only excessive interest or usury—forbidding any interest percentage whatsoever. So the concept of "investing" money in a securities, commodities, or any other market would have been against the counsel of Torah.

A class member pointed out the master gave no instructions, but simply handed out money. One commentary I read (that Pastor Peg also had seen and mentioned) suggested the guy who got only one talent had been a good and faithful steward and held onto the money, had not violated Torah guidelines by trying to make more money with it, and even informed the master about the master's reputation, prophetically speaking truth to power, and got cast out of society. Commentary suggested that guy could be a model for Jesus himself! Someone mentioned they'd only heard this (stewardship?) parable applied to our native gifts and abilities, and that's definitely one type of talent we need to invest and cultivate in time, training, education, practice, some of which take actual money, too.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Pentecost 23A

Matthew 25:1-13

1Jesus said to the disciples, "Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a shout, "Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' 7Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' 9But the wise replied, "No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.'

10And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, "Lord, lord, open to us.' 12But he replied, "Truly I tell you, I do not know you.' 13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Two more Sundays and we'll have cycled through another year of grace in the church! Next week will be Pentecost 24; then on the last Sunday of this year of grace, we'll celebrate Reign of Christ / Christ the King before we move into another season of Advent, into Revised Common Lectionary Year B when we feature the gospel according to Mark that's the earliest and shortest of the four canonical gospels.

Let's begin with the Apostle Paul's reminder from 2 Corinthians 6:2 that reminds us now is the "acceptable time, the day of salvation." Today, this instant, is the time to repent, forgive, start making restitution—the time of action, time of doing justice and righteousness God calls us to through the prophet Amos 5:24 in the first reading for today. Paul picks up on God's promise in Isaiah 49:8a that in a favorable time, a day of salvation, God will answer us and help us. That's right now. It's today.

Like the characters in Matthew's allegory we need to wait, but we also need to take life-giving, merciful, loving, justice-enhancing action Jesus calls us to in the Beatitudes as we wait. Interesting the lectionary juxtaposes this wedding attendants story with Amos' call to cascading righteousness and justice.

Last week for All Saints Sunday we again heard the "Blessed are" Beatitudes from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Maybe you've heard them referred to as Be-Attitudes?

Jesus addresses his parable or allegory to his "disciples," to us. Yes, we need to wait for the second coming of Christ Jesus tells us about, but it's not passive waiting. The "end times" are the end of the world as we know it; the end of violence, injustice, and exploitation that we know too well. The dawn and beginning of the new world of peace-filled shalom, distributive (and other forms of) justice for all, integrity and purposefulness for all creation. The end times are a gateway or open door to the new creation.

Our discussion placed this passage in context of the beatitudes, and in the context of Jesus' talk about end times or eschatology (the word about "last things") in the previous chapter, Matthew 24. Also looking forward to Reign of Christ where Jesus tells people whenever anyone gave a cup of water to the least of these, visited those in prison, etc. they (we, us, you, me) did those merciful and life-restoring actions to him. We talked about the massacre at First Baptist Sutherland, Texas last Sunday. This past week all over social media people said "thoughts and prayers" were not enough. They needed to hear about the end of gun violence, the reform of the NRA, repeal of existing gun laws, etc. Take action! Be God's hands, feet, voice, presence in the world!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Reformation 500

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Opening Prayer from J.S. Bach's Cantata No. 79; this was the choir anthem and our sending hymn – ELW 840.

Now thank we all our God,
with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done,
in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers' arms
has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.

Martin Rinkart, ca. 1636; translation by Catherine Winkworth

This year's Reformation Sunday / Reformation Day is Reformation 500! Class was less formal and structured than usual. We discussed God's promise of newness and restoration, of resurrection from the dead through the prophets—especially through 2nd Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

I mentioned how today's revised common lectionary texts fit well with Jesus' promise of constant presence with us via the gospel we received from John; how they mesh with this year's featured gospel according to Matthew that starts out with Emmanuel, God-with-us, concludes with Jesus' promise to be with us always and his Great Commission charge to us to be his witnesses and presence everywhere on earth. Over the past 4 weeks we studied passages from Philippians; today also fits well with the Apostle Paul's close identity with the crucified and risen Christ, his longing to be "in Christ' to such an degree he shares in Jesus' death and resurrection.

I asked again how we know God is with us; like last week, (for once) I wanted a specific answer: word and sacrament. Beyond a nice, calm, smug, or satisfied feeling, Word and Sacrament remain earthbound, physical evidence we can sense (smell, hear, taste, see, touch) God is here. With us.

Observations about Luther and other reformers acting as God's agent through the Holy Spirit of life, renewal, restoration, and resurrection. Church always is situated in place and time; we discussed the geography of how we're the only church on this plot of land, this longitude and latitude; talked about the chronology of countless other valid expressions of the church around the world, hundreds in this city.

I asked especially about dreams for LCM, for this neighborhood, and this city. All Saints' Sunday next week!